As you have probably learned by now, the United States Golf Association in June unveiled a new public education campaign to raise awareness across the golf community of the challenges and solutions to pace-of-play issues.

According to industry research, the time that it takes to play golf is a principal driver that adversely impacts enjoyment of and discourages participation in the game.

“Pace of play has become a strategic priority for the USGA, and part of a larger leadership agenda to address the issues that threaten the long-term health of the game,” said USGA President Glen D. Nager. “Our new campaign underscores a commitment to educate golfers and golf facility managers in a fun and engaging manner about all the factors that contribute to pace of play and the role they can have in implementing practical solutions to the problem.”

The Pace of Play initiative is heartily endorsed by the New Jersey State Golf Association which is asking each of its 65,000 members to visit NJSGA.org and partake in a Pace of Play pledge and survey which will help the association and member clubs speed up play throughout our state. For participating in the pledge, NJSGA members will be awarded a personalized NJSGA Pace of Play bagtag.

TAKE THE PLEDGE; GET FREE PERSONALIZED NJSGA BAG TAG

“It’s encouraging to see the USGA take the initiative because of the way pace of play impacts the game,” said Rich Kennedy, NJSGA Director of Handicapping and Member Services.

“The USGA initiative is about informing golfers how they can play faster and it changes the culture and attitude towards pace of play. Considerable resources have gone towards TV ads and the internet to further this goal. ”

The USGA campaign is being supported through its partnerships with the LPGA, The PGA of America, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, who are lending the expertise of their members to develop content for the education program.

The USGA has mounted an extensive television and media ad campaign called “While We’re Young,” which borrows the iconic line from the character played by Rodney Dangerfield in the classic 1980 film Caddyshack®.

The campaign features a TV spot at Pebble Beach where Arnold Palmer goads a dawdling Clint Eastwood into picking up his pace by asking “While We’re Young?,” one of five TV spots in the campaign. It takes a lighthearted and comedic approach to encourage golfers of all skill levels and golf course facilities to join a movement to improve pace of play and reduce the time it takes to play the game.

“At the state and regional level, we’re trying to get more and more people into the game. We also want to prepare them for the moment when they do get on a golf course, that they need to play at an adequate pace,” Kennedy said.

The Pace of Play issue primarily affects the public course golfer when golfers of varying skill levels are on the course at the same time.

“At private clubs, golfers get around well. The reasons are due to less golf and a culture within the club that encourages golfers to play faster, and most clubs offer caddies,” Kennedy stated. “Peer pressure is a definite reason. It’s a lot easier to create that culture in a private club setting.

“On a public course, there are golfers of all skill levels, golfers who play once per year up to golfers who play 50 times or more per year. They are all thrown out there together. There’s little that can be done to separate them so educating them about Pace of Play provides maximum awareness in how important it is not to waste time on the course.”

The NJSGA has long studied pace of play, in particular in speeding play during the 25 tournaments it conducts.

“One of the most frequent comments we receive from our tournament participants regards pace of play,” said NJSGA tournament director Mike McAneny. “It has been on the NJSGA radar for quite a while. In 2006, we instituted the “Checkpoint” timing system.

“This system has been an unqualified success, reducing average rounds by 15 to 20 minutes. We realize, however, there is still room for improvement. At the tournament level, we realize that the primary elements that influence pace of play are the characteristics of the golf course and a player’s routine.

“With that in mind, we have thoughtfully set up golf courses relative to the general ability of the player, and we share a number of tips and advice as to how to improve a player’s routine. We also publish timing guidelines specific to each event and each course, and have timing officials present to promote and enforce an appropriate pace of play.”

One New Jersey course that has for a decade been a vanguard in the Pace of Play arena is the Bowling Green Golf Club in Oak Ridge in Morris County, a public-play facility.

“What brought it on was our stiff competition. It made logical sense. We knew five-to-six hour rounds were not a good thing long term and it would help ourselves short term, it could also be good long term,” said Tom Bishop, Bowling Green director of golf.

“We have a traditional golf course, an easy walking golf course. The first thing we did was clean out brush and a lot of pruning on the course and between holes. Golfers who hit balls stray could quickly find the balls and get back into play. From that point forward we thought we had something there. Tees are close to greens. Golfers easily see all hazards.

“Our fast play plan included widening some landing areas, taking out trees and clearing undergrowth.”

The official USGA pace of play rating for Bowling Green is 4:06, four hours and six minutes. The club has built in time charts for attendants on a hole-by-hole basis. So they can tell at any moment where a certain group of golfers should be. They’ve even built in an additional eight minutes for the halfway house, so it’s 4:14 from start to finish. The club does allow extra time for golfers in wet weather and when it’s cart-path play only.

“When people call in for a tee time, we tell them about our pace of play policy and we tell them again when they get here. We think there are enough people who see value in pace of play. It’s something we focus on,” Bishop said.

“A big deal in helping us in pace of play is getting the golfer to pick the correct tee box.”

Bowling Green features six different tees on each hole, including the women’s tee, adding tees over the years.

Bishop noted that it had been very difficult to have people in a group split tees, but that is happening now.

“Getting golfers to the correct tee is really important. Ready golf is helpful, too,” Bishop claimed.

Bowling Green undertook a calculation in that if four golfers each shot 100 and were able to save two seconds per stroke, they could save 13 and a half minutes off their collective round. The club increased the starting time between groups to 10 minutes instead of eight minutes.

On-course attendants tactfully, but firmly, get slow groups to speed up.

“We thought the longer starting times may have cost us rounds, but that hasn’t been the case. We had 28,000 rounds last year and that’s an improvement over each of the past three years,” said Bishop noting that Bowling Green’s short season runs only from April 1 to November 15.

“Pace of play is more and more in the consciousness of the golfers. Every golfer is on our side and plays with a positive attitude. The overall program adds to the overall service we provide,” Bishop said.

“We’ve been very happy with it. We used to give out hats for guys who would play in under four hours. When guys were shooting 115 in under four hours, we knew we had something special.”

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